Simple light switch


In my garage there is a light switch - it ought to be simple - the cable from the power supply comes into the switch and then goes out to the light. Most of the simple switches in the market seem to just switch the live and you don't bother cutting the neutral.
However my switch has both wires cut and the switch has 3 terminals - one called Com and the others called L1 and L2. Both neutral cables are connected to L2 and the live supply is connected to L1 with the red light cable connected to Com. When the switch is off it would appear that L2 is connected to Com (so the light is off) and when the switch is on, L1 is connected to Com so the light comes on. This seems to make sense and it sometimes works ok.
However, for as long as I can remember, turning off the light switch periodically breaks the circuit breaker - perhaps because of leakage of current when the switch jumps across. To avoid this I have been leaving the light on and just using the circuit breaker to turn the lights on and off but I have now got around to trying to fix it. My first attempt was to replace the switch with an identical one in case the switch was faulty but that didn't work - indeed it just damaged the new switch and I have had to revert back to the old one.
Please can you tell me is this a normal way to wire a light switch. If not, is my guess above a reasonable explanation for the circuit breaker problem (ie the switch should not be wired in this way)? In which case is there a simple cure apart from starting with a fresh wire and buying a simple switch - eg how could I join the neutral wires back together?
Alternatively if my guess is not right, how would I find out the cause of the circuit breaker breaking.
Thanks
Bruce
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Broooz wrote:

Get a single chocolate block connector or cut one off from a strip:
http://www.maplin.co.uk/images/Full/l96_99ar.jpg
and shift the two neutral wires from the switch to the block. Problem solved.
--
Sue

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thanks very much - will try that
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

What you have got is a 2 way switch, usually used for stairways etc. where there is a switch at the top and bottom of the stairs. Generally the black wires are not neutral in this case, they might be the two parallel wires that go to the second 2 way switch, L1 to L1, L2 to L2, and the second Com would then feed to the lamp, with the neutral being connected to the other connection in the lampholder. I cannot help further from how you have described it being wired, as the circuit would need to be traced to see what else might be connected to the black wires. A two way switch can be used as a one way switch by using Com and either L1 or L2, but I cannot think why you have 2 wires in L2. If you remove the 2 black wires from the switch and put them in a separate connector, I don't think the light is going to work as then there will be no feed to the lamp :-)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Harry Stottle wrote:

going to the lamp going out. The black wire of the cable coming in needs to be joined to the black wire going out. The red wire coiming in goes to one side of the switch and the red wire going out goes to the other side of the switch. Normally those black wires would be joined together in a connector.
What it sounds like was done, is the the red and black wires coming in were both taken to the L1 and L2 terminals of the switch and the switch common taken to the lamp, along with a black wire commoned to the black wire coming in. The switch is then alternatively connecting live or neutral to the red lamp wire. This saved having to use a connector to join the neutrals together.
--
Sue




Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That is correct. What I am wondering if this could be the cause of the circuit breaker breaking. Assuming it is, I am trying to get hold of the plastic joiners you suggested to see if that works. Thanks
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Broooz wrote:

directly wired to it in this way.
What will happen is that, when the switch is wired normally, there is always the resistance of the lamp between line and neutral to limit any current. A tiny arc may form in the switch as it is operated, but the current that can flow will be have been limited by the lamp and the arc will soon disappear.
When the switch is wired as yours is, that tiny arc that forms when the switch operates can create a conductive path direct between line and neutral, within the switch. This can cause a very high current to flow, but that current is almost immediately interrupted by the circuit breaker tripping. With wear and age, the chance of this conductive path being created grows. Hence the switch would probably have been fine, when new, but will gradually cause the breaker to trip more and more frequently.
At least you have a breaker, not a fuse. With a fuse, a lot more time and energy can pass under these conditions, before the fuse wire melts. This energy release can do a lot more damage within the switch - it is almost like having a tiny welding torch in there.. this can damage more of the switch - removing bits of contact and burning bits of insulation. The switch can start to be unreliable even when left switched on - or off.
--
Sue









Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thanks again Sue. I have now used the joiners you pointed to and it all works perfect. A great result!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

One more thing - make sure you've insulated the choc block connection (e.g. with black insulating tape). Even if neutral goes to earth (let alone live), your thingy will trip again...
--
Martin
[ remove barrier to reply ]
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thanks - good point although the wires are well hidden
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

This could very well be the cause of the MCB tripping. The switch may not be "breaking before making" and would create a live neutral short that will trip the MCB. Any DIY shop will 6 amp terminal block.
Sue's diagnosis sounds correct to me.
Adam
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.